Have you ever thought about what would happen to your practice if some kind of disaster occurred? What would you do if a fire destroyed your office? How would you respond if one of your computers suffered a hard disk crash? Would you lose your patient records? These are issues most people only think about once it’s too late. Statistics show that most businesses never open their doors after a catastrophic event. You need a disaster recovery plan to protect your practice and your patients.
There are several critical elements you need to consider in your plan. First, conduct a survey and analysis of your office. Make a list of all hardware and data stores. Keep track of the software you use, not just the data. Belarc Advisor is a free program that will create a list of all the software and settings on a computer. Add these reports to your recovery plan.
Create a diagram that shows the office setup; include information about printers, computers, networking gear, and other important hardware. If you have to rebuild your office, the diagram will speed up recovery. Include as much detail as possible; that way you can hand the diagram to an IT professional and have them set up the office for you. Be sure to purchase business insurance. Your plan won’t help if you don’t have the financial resources to rebuild.
Second, backups are the most important part of your plan. You should have both local and offsite backups. Local backups are handy for minor emergencies, such as disk crashes or accidental deletions. Ideally, you should have a local backup for each computer, in addition to your main data store or server. We prefer external two-terabyte USB drives for local and offsite backups. Be sure to include email and CD-ROM images of all your software. Consider encrypting your local and offsite backups, that way if someone steals the drives they won’t have access to your data.
Offsite backups are critical for disasters, such as fire, flood, or theft. For best results, use an offsite backup that will give you physical access to the storage media so you can quickly restore your data. Offsite backups send files over the internet, so you are limited by bandwidth. Make sure your office has high speed internet and that your backup includes the most critical data. You may want to periodically update your offsite backups to include email and software images, since these are usually too large to transfer over the internet.
Third, be sure you monitor the backups. Monitoring is critical; you should get daily reports indicating that your backups ran, and whether or not they were successful. Backups that aren’t functioning provide a false sense of security.
Finally, if you don’t have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR), get one. Paper charts are almost impossible to back up. Paper is a fire hazard, and even the fire sprinklers could ruin your charts. EMRs are infinitely more survivable, and key to your disaster recovery plan.